Dolma making and sharing tradition - a marker of Azerbaijan’s cultural identity recognized by UNESCO

Baku, January 22, AZERTAC

Azerbaijan’s dolma making tradition is a set of knowledge and skills relating to the preparation of the traditional meal ‘dolma’, which takes the form of small fillings (containing meat, onion, rice, peas and spices) wrapped in fresh or pre-cooked leaves or stuffed in fruits and vegetables.

If you’re visiting Azerbaijan, it is worth trying - dolma, which originates from the shortened Turkic word ‘doldurma’, meaning ‘stuffed’.

Dolma is a traditional Azerbaijani meal that features vine leaves or cabbage stuffed with a mixture of freshly ground beef mixed with lamb meat, as well as a little bit of rice, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Another variation of dolma is called “Uch baji” (three sisters), as its main ingredients are stuffed tomato, pepper and aubergine.

The traditional Azerbaijani Dolma has more than 25 varieties depending on the region and the season. Dolma uses vine leaves in the winter and spring, eggplants and peppers during the summer and cabbage leaves in autumn.

The meal is shared within families or local communities, with different methods, techniques and ingredients used to prepare the traditional meal by different communities.

This tradition is present throughout Azerbaijan, and is perceived as a central culinary practice in all its regions. It is enjoyed on special occasions and gatherings and expresses solidarity, respect and hospitality. This extraordinary culinary tradition is transmitted from generation to generation and transcends ethnic and religious boundaries within the country.

The tradition is transmitted through parent-child relationships, while formal transmission mainly occurs in vocational and apprenticeship schools. The element enjoys great visibility within Azerbaijani society, and its viability is ensured by the communities through numerous awareness-raising activities and events such as festivals, vocational schools that teach the tradition and the preparation of publications on the subject.

Many variations of dolma are made in some countries around the world, too, including Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Greece, and others.

First and foremost, the difference is in the size and shape. Azerbaijani dolma is much smaller and has a round shape (except, in the Azerbaijani city of Ganja, the dolma is slightly oval and is a bit bigger), unlike its foreign cousins that usually have a long, tube-like shape. In Azerbaijan, the smaller the dolma bundles, the better.

The second distinct feature is the use of copies amounts of fresh herbs in the filling, including cilantro, dill, and mint.

Embassies and diaspora organizations of Azerbaijan operating in different countries around the world are making every effort to promote the Azerbaijani culture and traditional cuisine abroad by publishing various books from Azerbaijani cuisine series such as “Azerbaijani dolma”, “Azerbaijani lavash” and “Plov, khash, lavash” and etc.

There are such festivals in Azerbaijan that seem to be created to demonstrate the generosity of the Azerbaijani land and the hospitality of the people, one of which is International Festival of Dolma. If you make a visit to such significant dates, you can get closer to the variety of delicious Azerbaijani cuisine and purchase traditional delicacies.

Since summer 2016, Azerbaijan’s capital Baku or one of its regions holds the International Festival of Dolma. During this large-scale and colorful event, Azerbaijani and foreign chefs present hundreds of varieties of dolma to the attention of a professional jury.

The first International Festival of Dolma was organized in Baku in 2016. Co-organized by the Azerbaijan’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, National Culinary Center, Azerbaijani National Culinary Association and Absheron District Executive Authority, the event brought together about 400 representatives from Azerbaijan’s 24 regions, as well as from Turkey, Ukraine and Jordan.

Thus, the guests attending this festival have a chance to get acquainted not only with classic types of Azerbaijani dolma, but also with such exotic varieties as dolma made from apples, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, etc.

The festival is accompanied by an interesting and diverse concert program with the participation of artists and folk groups.

The preparation of dolma has been included in UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as the Azerbaijani tradition at the twelfth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Jeju Island, Republic of Korea.

The appeal for the inclusion of the preparation of the Azerbaijani dolma in UNESCO list was jointly made by Azerbaijan's Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to UNESCO.



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